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How Equipment Manufacturing Digitalizes to Boost Efficiency

How Equipment Manufacturing Digitalizes to Boost Efficiency

Published on: 03 Jul 2024 8 min read

Industry 4.0 offers tremendous opportunities for equipment manufacturers to achieve unprecedented levels of automation and connectivity. Those who can digitalize wisely, quickly, and efficiently will be the first to reap the benefits of the emerging Industrial Revolution 5.0, with its promise of greater integration between machines and human creativity.

How Equipment Manufacturing Digitalizes to Boost Efficiency

But even before the dawn of Industry 1.0, manufacturers faced the same fundamental challenge: How to reduce production costs and optimize supply chains. Traditional cost-cutting measures, such as relocating manufacturing to cheaper regions, are temporary fixes that won’t last forever. As global markets equalize, the focus shifts toward more innovative and enduring strategies that keep manufacturers relevant to the market.    

With data-driven solutions, equipment manufacturers can now decide where and how to optimize production processes, explore new business models, or advance their net-zero goals.

Effective remote monitoring and diagnostic capabilities can enable a shift to new “as-a-service” business models that are viable for more manufacturers.

Regular machinery software updates, spare-part replacements, and predictive maintenance can boost customer satisfaction and cyber-security

As technologies have matured, making data and insights available from the shop floor to the executive suite has become much more attainable. Businesses of all sizes are now able to capitalize on capturing and processing data, integrating it with their ERP, and using insights to enable smart manufacturing.

A graph showing the different components of Industry 4.0 smart manufacturing.

Streamlining Sales Process Management

Streamlining sales process management leads to “top-line growth,” enabling economies of scale and further optimizations. Effective sales process management starts with analyzing whether you are using the right tools to maximize the potential of your sales workforce and sales channels.

This can be achieved through product digitalization, configuration, and quote automation. Enabling clients to design their own configurations and automatically generate quotes will require minimal input from sales engineers. This frees up their time to focus on convincing your customers that your equipment is the best fit for their use case rather than getting bogged down in manual quotation processes.

Pricing configuration adheres to certain logic and a finite number of rules and can be automated. What can’t be automated is the unique way your sales workforce presents your product’s added value to your customers. Tools that provide a 360-degree view of customer and product data allow them to better analyze, track, predict, and personalize customer interactions.

For instance, dynamic lead time for various equipment configurations can be based on component availability data across your supply chain. These insights can help your sales teams manage customer expectations and guide them toward quicker, more cost-effective options.

Production Automation

Companies need to monitor their manufacturing processes in real-time. Vertical integration of smart production systems should bring seamless data flow, enabling quick responses to market changes, equipment failures, or stock shortages.

The chart shows the vertical integration of systems in modern equipment manufacturing.

Digital twins can mirror a whole factory, providing key insights like equipment downtimes, quality, and assembly times. This data helps increase production and enables AI-driven predictive maintenance. Simulating the performance of new products in a digital format can optimize production lines and allow experimentation with the product even before it is built.    

The constant pressure to improve efficiency often means outsourcing manufacturing to other locations or working with cheaper suppliers, which leads to more quality concerns. Machine learning and AI-powered processes can boost Zero-Defect Manufacturing, increase efficiency, and drive both the top and bottom lines up.   

Operational Asset Management

When customers vote with their budgets for the quality of your equipment, it is good to know that longevity and reliability stand at the other end of the capital investment. By leveraging real-time monitoring solutions, manufacturers can offer superior operational asset management, driving value up to their clients.

This is achieved through monitoring solutions that enable the collection of detailed real-time data streams and analytics, triggering alerts when specific thresholds are met. Systems for anomaly detection, load forecasting, and emission monitoring allow manufacturers to adjust machine operations to reduce downtime and minimize costs and emissions, ensuring their equipment operates with the most efficient and eco-friendly power sources available.

Accumulated data drives predictive maintenance, which further optimizes machine performance and reduces the need for costly product recalls and repairs.

For example, an equipment manufacturer can extend its smart factory with remote monitoring and analytics services. The technology can collect vibration, temperature, and other operational data from customers’ equipment and use that data to identify and diagnose potential reliability problems. By automating much of the necessary data analysis using AI tools, the company can scale up its service offerings. Providing monitoring to a wider range of customers can increase after-sales revenues while using the collected data can rapidly improve the diagnostic and predictive capabilities of their internal systems.

Improving monitoring and analytics then cascades on other processes that need to run automatically. For example, automation of work orders to enhance maintenance processes. Customers should be able to seamlessly check spare parts availability in the supply chain and trigger integrated work orders for parts replacement, inspections, or repairs. This ensures timely delivery and service, thereby maximizing operational efficiency and customer satisfaction.

Embracing these digital tools not only drives value but also positions manufacturers as leaders in a competitive market.

Aftersales & Workforce Management

Manufacturers need a multidimensional overview of their spare parts and inventory. They need to know the availability of their parts, pricing, availability per geography, and availability of field engineers.     

Very often, orders can come from locations where the manufacturer doesn’t have a logistics center. If operations are growing, they need to decide whether to deploy their own warehouse or work with a partner who will service their equipment. Through optimized financial risk insights, manufacturers can decide whether to grow through partnerships or more competitive logistical networks.

However, to make an informed decision, manufacturers need to trust their data to perform advanced business analysis. They need to stay connected to the different components of the equipment they sell. This enables them to broaden their range of services, including predictive maintenance, control through dedicated product apps, and solving issues remotely.

Equipment manufacturers can significantly reduce costs and increase customer satisfaction with remote diagnostics. Instead of sending field engineers for every issue, remote inspection systems and augmented reality enable service engineers to fix or guide the machine operator to fix it themselves. Remote fixing enablement of customers can significantly improve SLAs and customer satisfaction.  By utilizing automation and digitalization, the manufacturing industry can better serve its client base and increase order numbers without increasing its workforce.

Equipment manufacturing companies offering these services have immediate, up-to-date access to data on any faults and other product requirements, enabling them to see improvements in the aftersales supply of spare parts and repairs. Their increased connectivity and understanding of customers’ machine usage provide them with a competitive edge in delivering superior service for their equipment.

Innovation

AI-based forecasting and computer vision-enabled robots are transforming how manufacturers monitor and adapt their processes. AI computer vision can automate lengthy and repetitive manufacturing tasks and improve quality control and after-sales support.

Operations evolve in real time, harnessing data from production, logistics, and field service operations. By training AI models to adjust based on gathered data, manufacturers can ensure they operate with increased efficiency while remaining agile.

Graph showing the different processes in equipment manufacturing and how AI-based forecasting can impact all of them.

Moreover, augmenting current equipment with smart capabilities — whether through new embedded software designs, software updates, or EdgeAI—provides a holistic overview of machinery performance. EdgeAI brings AI capabilities as close to the equipment as possible, directly on local edge devices such as sensors or IoT, which enables real-time data processing and analysis without constant reliance on cloud infrastructure.

This continuous “smartening of equipment” not only boosts productivity but also enhances the precision and reliability of manufacturing operations. Embracing these digital advancements enables manufacturers to stay ahead of the curve, ensuring they meet and exceed customer expectations in a dynamic market landscape.

Sustainability

Every production business needs to examine its energy procurement thoroughly and clearly identify all the possible opportunities for a more sustainable supply chain and cost savings. 

Once the data on GHG emissions and consumption is gathered and verified, manufacturers can decide whether to use their current providers/vendors, the different possible sources of energy, whether renewables are right for their business, and whether the price they pay for energy is adequate.

As companies intensify their efforts to hit increasingly aggressive Scope 3 emission-reduction targets, they pressure their equipment providers to demonstrate a clear roadmap for net-zero operations. Equipment manufacturers need to be open about their GHG emissions and drive sustainability throughout their supply chain.

At Scalefocus, we’ve developed a GHG Calculator to help companies measure and track their Scope 1,2 and 3 emissions. The GHG calculator allows for fast ingestion of emission factors – publicly available, custom, or dynamic and complex GHG calculations.

The tool offers the needed baseline of calculations for environmental compliance. It can be used as a starting point for more advanced business planning going forward. In this article, we discuss further the benefits of the GHG calculator in heavy-emissions enterprises like oil and gas. However, its functionalities are valid for any other enterprise setting.

Conclusion

At Scalefocus, we help equipment manufacturers overcome technology challenges on their path to smart manufacturing. We can help them choose the right technology and plan the right implementation or integration approach. We also have the needed skillsets to help them move quickly from prototype to the roll-out of digital solutions on a greater scale.

Contact us to discuss how we can help you build the right digital capabilities at the right time and the right way.

About the Author:

Dimitar Grancharov

Dimitar Grancharov

Content Team Manager

Mitko has a background in journalism and advertising – challenging fields that turned him into what some would call a copywriting go-getter. He is interested in topics such as Energy and Renewables, Big Data & Analytics, everything AI, and how people-first content can reach its designated audience through SEO. In his spare time, he enjoys camping, skiing, and listening to quality Spotify lists.

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